Is there any truth to the statement that coconut oil* acts like a protein and therefore should be used sparingly if you are ‘protein sensitive’? The answer is yes and no, but more ‘no’ than ‘yes’ if that makes any sense.
The first thing we need to do is define each thing to gain a better understanding of exactly what they are and how they work for our hair.
What is Protein?
Protein is made up of long chains of amino acids required by our body for growth, development, maintenance of cells and repair of all cells.
Our hair is a type of protein, it is basically a couple of layers of intertwined keratin that ‘grows’ from hair follicles. The cool thing about protein is that it can be used to repair damage that is caused from general manipulation of our hair.
Protein that is small enough to penetrate the hair strand, otherwise known as hydrolyzed protein can add layers to the strand from the inside patching up holes that may otherwise cause highly porous hair that cannot retain moisture.
Other proteins that are two large to penetrate the strand, like that which is found in an egg can add layers and repair the hair on the outside of the strand, leading to shiny healthy looking hair.
What is coconut oil?
To define coconut oil we will start with the coconut before it has been ‘processed’. A coconut* is a unique food with all parts of it used in different ways to benefit the human body.
Coconut water found inside the coconut is known for its electrolytes and is great for replenishment in dehydration. It’s literally like vitamin water from a tree!
Coconut milk, also derived from the coconut is derived from the shell of the coconut by pressing the flesh of the coconut with hot water, resulting in a milky white substance. The components of the milky white substance include, carbohydrates, fat and of course protein.
Coconut oil is created by separating the oil from a mixture of the milk and the water using a fermentation process. The key difference between coconut oil and coconut milk is essentially that all the carbohydrates and protein are always left in the milk and virtually non-existent in the oil. (the oil is left with fats and traces of vitamin E* and K)
We have identified what protein does for the hair in terms of repair, but what is it that coconut oil can do for our hair? The most common similarity coconut oil* has with protein is its penetrating capabilities and the nutrients found in the oil serves as a great conditioner.
However in addition to conditioning the hair coconut oil also acts like a typical oil, either helping the hair to retain moisture or temporarily blocking moisture from the hair. With that said, coconut* oil behaves like a protein only to the extent that it can penetrate the hair shaft, but it does not do any of the building worked otherwise reserved for protein so it is unlikely to hurt those who are protein sensitive.
Have you stopped using coconut oil because of your fear of protein sensitivity or negative views of the oil?